Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz
February 19, 2012 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz is the longest-running cultural program on National Public Radio - having been hosted by Ms. McPartland from June 4, 1978 through November 10, 2011. Her guests included Eubie Blake, Carla Bley, JoAnne Brackeen, Ray Charles, Alice Coltrane, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill, Dick Hyman, Ahmad Jamal, Keith Jarrett, Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson, Michel Petrucciani, Marcus Roberts, and McCoy Tyner.
posted by Trurl (25 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Marian McPartland has been an inspiration for me since I took up piano a decade ago - she's just so incredibly good at her art, and her quiet, unassuming style combined with her happy willingness to share it makes me inexpressibly happy. She is quite charming, too; there's something really priceless about the way this little old lady with chatter politely for a while with her guests like your grandma might - before turning around and absolutely flooring you with insanely powerful and brilliant musicianship. "Oh, okay... I'll just play a little, you know I'm not so good anymore, and I don't quite remember the tune, but maybe..." BOOM.
posted by koeselitz at 5:41 PM on February 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

Wow. What a lineup. I've only heard a few of these. Can't wait to hear the rest, when I can find the time. No better way to spend spare time. The Alice Coltrane (may peace be upon her) piece was done in 1981, BTW. That's first on my list.
posted by kozad at 5:48 PM on February 19, 2012

Steely Dan
posted by timsteil at 6:04 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Always enjoyed her show, and was saddened when she was one of the first to go when WBEZ in Chicago started slashing its jazz programming a few years back.


There is an evil part of me that just could not deal with McPartland's unwaveringly kind, grandmotherly nature patiently. She would always asks the artists what song they'd like to play, and she'd invariably reply with something like, "Oh, that's a lovely song." Just once, I wanted to hear an artist ask to play song and have McPartland reply, "God, I fucking hate that song."
posted by HeroZero at 6:16 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I love this show, and she’s awesome. Such a nice, polite lady, and you know she’s been to parties you can’t imagine.

I didn’t know the show was over. It would be great to have the collection.
posted by bongo_x at 6:31 PM on February 19, 2012

It would be great to have the collection.

Easily done. Each page includes a download link.
posted by hippybear at 6:37 PM on February 19, 2012

I am not a big jazz fan, but every time that show comes on I always listen. McPartland really makes the music so more accessible for someone like me. I love the show, I love her voice, I love the way she draws me into something I would normally just turn off.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 6:45 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also wasn't aware that she had stopped recording the show. Thank to Ms. McPartland for the years of great broadcasting and inspirational playing.
posted by pianoboy at 6:58 PM on February 19, 2012

See if you can pick her out of a 1958 jazz greats lineup.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 7:16 PM on February 19, 2012

I have burned CDs of these for my mom, and have *cough* several laying around here.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:40 PM on February 19, 2012

(which is only to say that this is an awesome program)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:40 PM on February 19, 2012

She's fantastic indeed!

I haven't heard her since living in Baltimore, so I'm guessing it's not carried here. Do holler if I'm wrong about that.
posted by spbmp at 8:27 PM on February 19, 2012

The show didn't so much end as she decided to step back from hosting. She's still on as artistic director for the show, now renamed "Piano Jazz Rising Stars", currently hosted by Jon Weber for 13 episodes. Time will tell if he'll host more episodes.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:52 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Marian McPartland is my favorite person on radio, ever. And one of my favorite pianists. Thank you, Marian, and thank you, Trurl.
posted by trip and a half at 8:57 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

This was one of those posts were my throat got tight and I skipped ahead to the end to make sure it wasn't an obituary. Whew.

I loved listening to Marian and friends on Sunday mornings (before WBEZ canned it in 200N). By the end of the hour I would be sitting at the piano, ready to turn off the radio and practice for the next hour or so.
That Oscar Peterson show was the first time I really began to understand virtuoso technique as applied to jazz piano... and also decided that I couldn't begin to match it.

dugadigadula doladigadola DEEEeeee....!
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:05 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, man, this is awesome. Thank you.
posted by converge at 10:46 PM on February 19, 2012

She also started and ran her own record label, Halcyon, starting in 1969 (scroll down for the article):

I just got mad that I didn't have a record contract. Nobody seemed that interested in recording me after I had been with Capitol. So I just, oh I did make a record for a label, Dot records, and I wasn't too thrilled with that, so I said, 'I'm going to start my own record company', and I did for awhile, and I don't think I could do it again. It was quite a job. We did manage to put out 18 records on the label....the jazz people were taking a back seat, so a lot of us had our own label. Stan Kenton did. I think Mingus was the first one to do that, but he really couldn't handle it; I don't think he had a good enough business sense, because you really had to take care of business and I remember I used to actually go to a record store like Sam Goody and tell them, 'I need that money you owe me.'
posted by mediareport at 10:48 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Love Marian and these interviews. The Eubie Blake and Ray Charles ones are my favorites. I think there's a moment towards the end of the Ray Charles one where her genius sense of harmony really shows through and Ray recognizes it and is genuinely ecstatic that he's playing with someone of equal musicality, and he amiably calls her a sucker for paying him to come be a guest on her show, that he gladly would have played for free.

She plays fluently in all keys and styles, accommodating to whatever her accomplished guests are more comfortable in. She never seems to overpower her guests in her duets and her solo performances on the show emphasize restraint, nuance, and deliberation over flash and showing-off. And she's a synesthete to boot. Just overall a formidable musician and a priceless collection of interviews.
posted by marco_nj at 12:38 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

In college, I worked for our local NPR affiliate and ran the board during Piano Jazz, etc. Her show was easily absolute favorite to just sit and enjoy. I love her voice as much as her playing - she always sounded like she had the best gig in the universe, and I'm pretty sure she's right.
posted by phong3d at 4:50 AM on February 20, 2012

If you want to hear what her trio sounded like in Manhattan's Hickory House in 1953, get a copy of Marian McPartland: On 52nd Street.
posted by at 5:19 AM on February 20, 2012

Help please! Visted the MMcPPJ pages on but can't figure out where the download links are on the pages. Would love these recordings for the car.
posted by clever_username at 6:45 AM on February 20, 2012

"In Good Time, The Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland" is a video trailer of a documentary film on Marian McPartland that we were alerted to via Contact... one of the few contact mails that are actually timely and relevant to our interests. (There are some upcoming screenings listed on the filmmaker's site, linked below the video.)
posted by taz at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

She did a great program with Mose Allison, but I can't find a link. I used to listen to her every week.
posted by ahimsakid at 1:55 PM on February 20, 2012

Help please! Visted the MMcPPJ pages on but can't figure out where the download links are on the pages. Would love these recordings for the car.

I picked a page at random from the links in the FPP.

Top of the main section of the page (the part with the white background) is the headline for the episode. In this case, "Violinist Stephane Grappelli on Piano Jazz".

Immediately below that is a red icon with a speaker symbol and next to that the words "Stephane Grappelli in Studio on Piano Jazz 10/5/89".

Immediately below THAT are two links: "Add To Playlist" and "Download".
posted by hippybear at 5:56 PM on February 20, 2012

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